By Zia Khan
ISLAMABAD (DPA) — More than 80 children were killed at a military-run school in north-western Pakistan after it was stormed by Islamist militants Tuesday, local authorities said.
Pakistani commandos were fighting Taliban militants who had taken hundreds of students and teachers hostage at the Army Public School in the north-western city of Peshawar, said Pervaiz Khattak, chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
At least 84 children had been killed, he said.
At one point, police estimated that at least 500 students from grades nine and 10 were being held inside an auditorium.
Several dozen children with bullet injuries were in a critical condition, and around 100 people were injured, provincial education minister Mushtaq Ghani said a little earlier.
"The operation is under way" to counter the Taliban attack, Khattack said. "Intense gun fighting is taking place inside the school."
Witnesses heard two loud explosions and saw heavy smoke at the school.
The area was cordoned off and helicopters were flying overhead.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the raid, saying it was revenge for a military offensive against militants in the north-western tribal region.
The army launched an offensive in the restive region in June and said it had killed more than 1,100 rebels.